I sit here with a glass of rum….

I’m sorry, this is another update that is mostly out of date, but it’s the last one, I promise, and there is some new news too….We were due to be going back to college in January of this year, but as our group is so small, the college decided to amalgamate us with the FD group that had started in May ’09 and bring us back in February. I found out about this in mid December and, as much as I love my parents dearly, the thought of sitting around on my backside at home for that long didn’t appeal. I was struggling with the Work Based Learning (the project work we have to do for college while we’re at sea) so I asked if I could be put back onto the Patricia for a few weeks. My company were very obliging and I joined the ship on the 30th December. I did 6 weeks this time and I am unbelievably grateful for that time, as I was able to get all my loose ends tied up and produce a body of work that made my tutors faces fall as I plonked the huge folder on their desks! This was mainly due to the fact that, on several occasions, when I went to see the Chief Officer in the morning to find out what I’d be doing that day, they asked if I had any project work to be doing, and told me go and crack on with that. This then is the abridged version of the log I kept over those weeks, with as much of the fun stuff as I can remember thrown in. Days that are missing I was either doing work in my cabin. Or greasing. There was a lot of greasing…..

30th Dec 2009

Falmouth
I joined the ship in the afternoon, having once again stayed with my friend who lives down there, and once again feeling slightly jaded from the night before. This time I was not sent below to the cabin I had been in before, but was sent up to the lower bridge deck, where the Captain and Chief Engineer also reside! This was not because I had been promoted though, it was far more practical; the berths below were needed for the maintenance crews who we would soon be taking out to various lighthouses and I was simply being put somewhere out of the way, for the moment anyway. I wasn’t complaining though, I had lots of space, a lovely big desk, two windows, (one on each side, which gives the cabin it’s nickname “The fishbowl”) and oh joy of joys, a bath! I never actually had a bath, but knowing that one has that option is always comforting.31st Dec
Falmouth
The ship didn’t sail that day, so I had the day to re-familiarise myself with the ships layout, and then in the evening I went out to celebrate New Years with some of the crew. As I’d sailed with them before I didn’t feel like the ‘new girl’ and we saw the new year in with the help of quite a lot of drink!

1st Jan 2010
Falmouth – Bridport

We had a lifeboat muster in the morning and then sailed for Eddystone Lighthouse to drop off some maintenance workers before heading to Bridport to anchor overnight.

4th Jan

Penzance.

Am. I  learnt how to drive the stores crane, moving gear around the heli-deck in preparation for heli-ops tomorrow. I knew where to move the crane by following hand signals given by one of the ABs who was watching the heli-deck below. It’s fairly easy, once you have worked out which direction to move the levers on the control unit – it wasn’t as obvious as it sounds!

The work boat was lowered to go ashore but when it came to hoisting it to take off the tricing pendants it was found that there was no power to the winch. The engineers found that several things were without power due to the main breaker malfunctioning, and set to to repair it. Meanwhile we lowered the searider on the stores crane to get people ashore.

Pm. Finished the stores crane checks with Boatswains mate then went to the Heli-deck to help with the last bits of preparation. The engineers had managed to fix the problem with the power, but when we’d lowered the port boat it wouldn’t engage it’s gears, so we lifted it back up and put the starboard one down instead. I was on the davit brake, which controls the lowering of the boat. I found it quite difficult to lower it slowly as you have to lift the brake enough to get going, but once it’s going it goes quite fast, so you have to slow it down by lowering the brake again, this meant the guys in the boat had a bit of a jerky ride unfortunately. Second go I started to get the hang of it, but I still need a lot more practice.

6th Jan

St Peter Port.

Anchor aweigh at 1120, standing by.

The ship was due to meet the helicopter in order to receive back the remaining water bags sent to the lighthouses, but due to the weather we were unable to do so. (Helicopters cannot fly in snow as it restricts the visibility). The crew were on standby for heli-ops and were called up and stood down several times before it was finally decided to call it a day.

9th Jan

Looe – Whitsand Bay – Penzance

Am. The searider was lowered to go ashore for newspapers and I went too, climbing down the buoy jumping ladder to get in, which felt pretty hairy as I had to make a bit of a drop to actually get in the boat. It was nice to get a little leg stretch ashore, and Looe harbour is quite pretty. The icicles on the cliffs we passed on the way in would make me think twice about getting out on the water in a row boat, but the local gig team were out. (All gig rowers I have ever met are mad…) I drove the searider back to the ship, and took it alongside to let one man out before we raised it.  I then attempted to get the boat into position for lifting on the stores crane but struggled with the choppy water and stiff wheel, more practice required!

17th Jan

English and Welsh Grounds

Am. I spent the morning in the engine room as they had opened up the port fuel service tank for survey, it had been ventilating for three days and was ready to be inspected. It was smaller than I had thought it would be, and the hatch access was so tiny they had to do a sort of limbo to get out!

20th Jan

In port, Swansea

Crew change day.

Am. Bomb search drill:  it’s not nearly so exciting as it sounds, the C/O hides a couple of blocks of wood with the word BOMB on them and everyone hunts round a given area, I found one in an electrical locker. I think if it was a real one we would have maybe done a little more than pick it up and take it to the bridge, but I don’t think bomb deactivation is on the OOW syllabus so I’m not going to worry about it! We also did a paint store fire drill, which I ‘discovered’. It was very straightforward: use the talkback system to talk to the bridge and then pretend to put it out with the conveniently placed CO2 extinguisher! It sounds silly really, but if you catch a small fire it’s better to just get on and put it out, rather than waiting for a full fire team to kit up, in which time a small fire might well have got a lot bigger.

Pm. I helped load the new food stores, filling the cage on the quay, and then went and helped on the fore deck stowing the new chains. The chains come in big bundles which have to be untangled (they’re not meant to be tangled but, sh*t happens!). This is done using the crane to lift them up, and then flake them out. The crane driver can’t do it all though and crew are required to heft sections about using long hooks.

23rd Jan

Barry – Swansea Bay

Am. The workboat was put down to inspect a buoy that had been reported as a casualty, which brings wonderful images to my mind of a buoy needing bandages and a drip, but in fact it was just that the light wasn’t working. The crew then lifted and replaced two buoys, I was on deck for this and helped where I could, which admittedly, isn’t much, but I was allowed to drive the capstans a few times, and there’s always the crud that gets washed off the buoy to sweep up!

25th Jan

Milford Haven – Skokholm – The Smalls – Milford Haven

Am. I spent the morning on the bridge helping the 2nd mate and doing a compass error (one small part of the process in celestial navigation), the ship steamed to Skokholm to transfer supplies and personnel to the lighthouse by helicopter and then moved on to The Smalls.

Pm. The heli-ops continued at The Smalls and I had the opportunity to go for a ride in the helicopter over to the lighthouse.This involved putting on a full flight suit, (slightly too big but close enough) and watching the videos, (again) and then, clutching my camera, I was strapped into the back seat, excited as a five year old. It didn’t feel nearly as weird as I thought it would, there was no sudden stomach lurch or anything, just an elegant glide. At the lighthouse I got out to get a couple of shots, it’s a very small platform, and I didn’t feel like taking a stroll to the edge (not that I’d have been allowed to). The lighthouse is literally perched on top of some rocks that the sea constantly washes over, no island or anything, quite how they built it I’d love to know!

At around 1600 the helicopter had just landed on for re-fueling when a warning light came on in the cockpit, there was a problem with the engine and they couldn’t fly any more. The ship returned to Milford Haven and anchored for the night, ready to steam to Swansea at 0630 am. The problem wasn’t as major as it sounds and the pilots reckoned they could have kept flying, and they would have had they not landed, but once on the ground they can’t take off again with a warning light on. Dems de rules.

26th Jan

Milford Haven – Swansea

Am. Did the arrival stability with the Chief Officer. The ship arrived in Swansea at about 1215 and I went forward for mooring stations.

Pm. I watched the helicopter being lifted off by crane.This involved taking off the propellers first and then lifting it onto a flatbed lorry, very, very carefully! I did the departure stability for the Chief Officer and went down to confirm the draughts just before we sailed at 1545, I then went forward for mooring stations.

Anchored overnight in Barafundle Bay (Stackpole Head)

28th Jan

Standing off Bardsea Island and St Tudwells Islands

I spent the day on the heli-deck as an extra member of the fire team, there’s a lot of stand up sit down involved in as the helicopter makes lots of short trips. The team have to be ready with hoses each time it comes in and out, but while it’s off flying and at the lighthouse there’s time to take off the massive Darth Vader helmets and sit down.

31st Jan

Walney Wind Farm – Lancaster Sound

Am. On deck helping with the buoy work, we laid four new Cardinal buoys around Walney Island Wind Farm. The ship then steamed to Lancaster Sound

Pm. This watch do all their maintenance jobs (greasing) as a team so everyone got on with their bit, getting the whole lot done in a day, whereas on the previous watch it had been just me and the Boatswains Mate, which took much longer! I was given the job of exchanging all the fresh water in the lifeboats. Some had developed algae in them so I left them to soak in a with a chlorine tablet in them. At anchor we had a boat muster drill and then a stowaway drill. This was basically a game of hide and seek, something I was very good at as a child! While counting life jackets a few days earlier I had noticed that the small locker on the port aft side was only half full, leaving just enough space for a me sized person. So after the muster drill, I hung about, waiting ’til the coast was clear and then hopped in. It wasn’t as comfortable as I had hoped but I wasn’t expecting to be in there for long…. I waited. People came past. I waited some more. More people past me. By now I was bored and wondering what was for lunch. I heard voices again, and this time the lid was opened. The guy who found me was rather surprised to find me there though, he’d noticed that the catch wasn’t fastened on the locker and had, apparently, been about to just snap it closed without checking inside, assuming of course that the locker was full of life jackets! I was very glad he did check though, although had that happened I would have phoned the bridge (I’d taken my phone, just in case!)

2nd Feb

At Anchor, Llandudno (weatherbound)

Am. Rinsed out and refilled the lifeboat water bottles that had been chlorine soaked. It’s not a dry job, by any means!

Pm. The Chief Officer asked me to write the scenario for the fire drill and then take charge of the incident party under his supervision. The brief was a deep fat fryer fire in the galley..

We began the drill with the Junior Catering Rating raising the alarm using the manual call point in the aft alleyway (using the test key), this set off the Yodalarm. He then closed the shutters to the mess, closed the doors from outside and isolated the electrics using the emergency buttons outside the galley. He then telephoned the bridge to inform them of the situation and the actions he had taken. Meanwhile the fire teams were mustering and the incident party arrived at the scene, we established comms with the bridge via radio and requested the fire fighting team and first aid team to muster in the alleyway.
The no 1 BA team arrived and I briefed them on the situation, suggesting the use of the fire blanket on the fryer and the AFFF extinguisher on any overspill. They went on air and entered the space, the fire was extinguished and they were able to evacuate the casualty, using the EEBA to provide him with immediate oxygen. I informed the bridge when they entered the space and when they came out.
On the stretcher the casualty was given first aid for burns, copious amounts of cold water was put over his burns and they were then wrapped in cling film. The Chief Steward administered  pain relief and asked me to get the bridge to call for a Medivac, ask for radio advice and for permission to administer morphine. I relayed this to the bridge and the medical team prepared to stretcher the casualty to the heli-deck.
 
In the debrief I ran through the scenario and what had happened. Everyone had mustered quickly and correctly and no issues were raised. No boundary cooling had been required because the fire was contained in the fryer and had been extinguished quickly.

8th Feb

St Brides Bay – Swansea

Am. Study while the ship steamed to Swansea.

Pm. Went aft for mooring stations, controlling mooring lines on the towing winch drum and then making them off on the bits once they had been stoppered.

I then went to the foredeck and helped get the new buoy stores on deck. I was also allowed to drive the speed crane (that’s the really big one!) under the Boatswain’s Mate’s supervision. I slung a chain which involves laying it out in fleets on the deck over a loop in the end, the end is then passed over the laid out chain, passed through the loop and pulled tight so the chain can be picked up and moved in one bundle.

Pics from this trip can be seen here .

So, that’s the end of my first sea phase, I’m sorry it’s taken quite so long to get up to date, but, as you may have gathered from earlier entries made over the last 9 months, college has been keeping me busy! Anyway, there’s not much I can blog about while at college, not much happens in Fleetwood and I have no desire to bore you silly with details of lectures, and I can never remember enough of the nights out to make a good story! But it’s over now, and I’m feeling a little bit smug (OK, very smug but I’m trying not to!) ….. I came top of my class, with an overall mark so far of 95%. It’s not over yet though, I have some more of the old WBL to do, and this time it counts for something like 40% of the overall mark, so no pressure then!I am off in the morning, catching the National Express to Gatwick (damn snow’s buggered up the trains) and from there I fly to sunny Bridgetown, Barbados to join the Wind Surf, a cruise ship with sails. (I realise you all hate me now). And, now that I am up to date, I intend to keep up to date, although as we all know, the road to hell is paved with such good intentions… Anyway, if you enjoy this, would you let me know? I sometimes feel a little lonely on here, with post after post bereft of comments… I am also on twitter, @size4riggers should you wish to hear random snippets of ships life and/or my general musings, and I have been proudly cultivating my flickr photos, (I was 2 years behind a few months ago, there has been some serious work going on!). They go back through the whole of my first Caribbean experience on the TS Pelican, and I will be interested to see if some of the places I visited then have changed. It’s all neatly organised, if you have a peek at the collections and sets… The pics from this trip are here.

I’ll stop the shameless self promotion now, and go get another glass of rum. I would have cider, but I’m at my sister’s, and one has to make do!

A daily diary – 1st Trip THV Patricia

Apologies in advance for what is probably a rather more dull blog post than you have become accustomed to from me, but on the other hand, life on ship isn’t always that fun and interesting and there are often long periods when life is fairly dull and monotonous. Plus, there’s really no way of making brass polishing sound interesting!! This blog is my way of catching up quickly on past events, as I only have about a week and a half before I am off to sea again, which I will be telling more about soon! To make it more interesting you might wish to read it while also looking at the photos from this trip, which tell the story just as well really. Click here to go to the photo set!

2nd July 2009

In port, Liverpool

Am. Final polishing of the cannons on the boat deck aft.

Pm. Leave ashore. VC (Visiting Committee) joined the ship in the afternoon and held a big dinner party, which went on a bit later than expected, so it was 2330 before the guests had gone ashore and we let go lines.

Vessel steamed overnight to Workington.

3rd July

Workington – Moelfre, Red Wharfe Bay

Am. On the bridge, I read and signed the Masters standing orders, and got on with finding out the ships particulars and details for record book.

Pm. We were shown around the engine room by the Chief Engineer and gathered more information for our workbooks.

When the ship arrived at the next buoy (a class 1) I went out in the work boat to watch one of the AB’s and the second mate replace a racon beacon.

Anchored overnight.

4th July

Molefre – Pwllheli, Tremadog Bay (North Cardigan Bay)

Am. Polishing brass.

Pm. Study.

Anchored overnight.

5th July

Pwllheli – Bardsey Island – Pwllheli

Am. Study.

Pm. 1200 -1600 watch on bridge

Vessel steamed overnight to Caldey Island.

6th July

Caldey Island – Swansea

Am. 0800- 1200 watch, I spent a good hour and a half holding the ship in position standing off Caldey Island using the bow thruster and props

Pm. Study.

7th July

In port, Swansea.

Day off.

8th July

In port, Swansea.

Am. Polished one of the cannons on the boat deck again, they now need to be shined up before being oiled and wrapped which will, hopefully, prevent them from being in such a state next time they’re brought out.

Fire Drill at 1130, my station is on the bridge.

Pm. We exercised the Starboard lifeboat as part of the vessels planned maintenance routine. Both S and I had a turn at steering her. The lagging on the exhaust had worn through and it started to smoulder as we returned to the ship. The Engineers inspected it immediately and replaced the lagging.

The Chief Mate showed me how to fill out the stability spreadsheet from the daily tank readings and we then checked the resultant trim against the actual draft marks on the ships side.

Vessel steamed to anchorage near SWIGG (South West Inner Green Grounds) lightbuoy, Swansea Bay. Anchored overnight.

9th July

SWIGG  L/b – Caldey Island

Am. On deck observing buoy work.

Pm. On the bridge, 1300 -1700

Anchored overnight.

10th July

At anchor off Caldey Island

Am. Run ashore to Caldey Island.

Pm. Brass cleaning, I got the Elder Brethren’s compass binnacle, bell, vessel’s God Mother’s plaque and clock clean and put away below. Then we were re-shining the taff rail tips before oiling and wrapping them.

Anchored overnight.

11th July

Caldey Island – Lundy Island

Am. 0800- 1200 Watch. The weather is predicted to worsen in the afternoon so after servicing two buoys the ship steamed to Lundy Island for shelter.

Pm. Study.

Anchored overnight.

12th July

Lundy – Minehead

Am. Attended security and health and safety briefings.

Pm. Finished polishing, oiling and wrapping the taff rail tips on the heli-deck.

Anchored overnight.

13th July

Minehead – Coombe Martin Bay

Am. Went out on the motor boat with 2nd mate to check firing range buoys off Minehead and then I was on deck for the last lift and service of the trip.

Pm.1200-1600 watch.

Anchored overnight.

14th July

 Coombe Martin Bay – Swansea

Am. 0800-1200 watch, helmed for an hour, and then helmed under pilotage for an hour as well, bringing the ship up the Swansea channel and into the docks.

Pm. On the bridge for harbour watch. Bunkering commenced at 1456.

15th July

In port, Swansea

Crew change day.

16th July

Swansea – English & Welsh Grounds, Bristol Channel

Am. Went through the steering gear checks on the bridge with the 2nd Officer  and went below to observe the emergency steering gear checks. Went aft for letting go.

Pm. 1200-1600 watch, position plotting and got an hour and 15mins steering. Watched the Breaksea class 1 buoy being replaced.

Anchored overnight.

17th July

E&W Grounds – Barry Roads

Am. Checking all the immersion suits and life jackets on board.

Pm. Started on checking the supplies in the lifeboats.

Anchored overnight.

18th July

Barry Roads – Lundy Island

Am. Watched safety videos on heli-ops then continued checking the contents of the lifeboats. After smoko I was told to get up to the bridge to get some more steering in, and also after lunch.

Pm. Swapped with S and carried on where she’d left off with the life boats. Only thing left to do was change the fresh water in the canteens. The ones for the work boats were fine but the ones in the open lifeboats had gone rather green from sitting in such a warm place under the covers.

Anchored overnight.

19th July

Lundy Island – Milford Haven

Am. Run ashore in the morning to see Lundy.

Pm. Steamed to Milford Haven, I helmed for a couple of hours on the way and then took the helm to take her in.

Anchored overnight.

20th July

Milford Haven – Skokholm – Bishops Rock – St Brides Bay

I helmed us out of Milford Haven. The ship then met a helicopter off Skokholm to supply the lighthouse with water, and then moved on to South Bishop to supply the lighthouse with oil, water and building materials for the roof renovation.

Anchored overnight.

21st July

St Brides Bay – Swansea

Am. Steaming to Swansea, I helmed for an hour, the weather was rough and vis poor.

Pm. Spent the afternoon photographing any parts of the ship I hadn’t already taken pictures of.

22nd July

In port, Swansea.

Signed off.

Schools out!

Finally, exams are over. It feels a little strange knowing that I have now completed the entire academic part of the course and the only exam left to do is the big one. But I don’t want to think about that for now, it’s too terrifying for words!

My last exam was the day before yesterday, ship stability, and this was the one we had all been dreading. I think I did well on it though, I finished an hour before the allotted time was up and left feeling confident, and having compared answers with various course-mates since I am happy that I’ve done alright. Assuming that is, that I didn’t make any silly mistakes and make numbers up out of my head, which has been known to happen before! But, I tend to do that when I’m distracted and I was in full concentration mode in the exam. Results should be out next week, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed until then!

Meanwhile, we got our celestial navigation exam results back, and I am incredibly pleased to be able to say that I got 100%! No mean feat considering we only started lessons on this subject 5 weeks ago and had a total of 7 lectures. The first few lessons were utterly confusing and I was convinced that I was never going to get the hang of it. However, our tutor, Mr Warren, is a fantastic teacher and he somehow managed to make it comprehensible. I actually like cel nav now, and I think this is a lot to do with his teaching.

Looking back, the last 9 months have gone by in a whirlwind of law, management, engineering, cargo and construction, nav aids, passage planning, cel nav, stability and dissertations. A lot to take in, and long time to be stuck in Fleetwood, which isn’t the most prepossessing of towns. I’m looking forward to getting back to sea enormously, and am anxiously waiting for my sponsors to tell me where I’m going. Meanwhile I’m getting photos on flickr (the link to my photostream is down the right hand side of this page) up to date, as I’ve just uploaded my first trip on the Patricia I thought I’d take a jump back in time and write about that.

I got less than 36 hours notice that I was joining a ship; I was in the car with my sister driving down to Dorset from Reading on a Monday afternoon when I got the call telling me I had to be in Falmouth on Wednesday. Thankfully I have a friend who lives in Falmouth, so I got the train down on the Tuesday and stayed a night with them. The next day, after a good brunch to dispel the slight hangover I had woken up with, I joined the ship at about 3. As I walked up the gangway some of the crew were sitting about on deck chairs, these were guys waiting for their counterparts to arrive with the hire cars that they would take home, but I didn’t know who anyone was so cheerily introduced myself and asked where I should go. I think I came across as a bit over keen as they all took the mickey out of me, but they sent me up to the bridge to find the officers and find out where my cabin was. Up on the bridge I met the Captain and Chief Officer and then someone showed me where my cabin was, right in the bowels of the ship, underneath the galley. It wasn’t a bad sized cabin though, and I had it to myself. The only problem with it, as I soon discovered, was that I got an extra early wake up every time the galley crew set to in the morning with the potato peeling machine! I got myself settled, got into my uniform and found the other cadet, S, who’d joined a little earlier in the day. She was also a first trip cadet and we were both as nervous as each other and equally unsure as to what we should do next! We went around the ship to get a feel of where things were and then when the ship was due to depart we reported to the bridge, expecting to be told to go down to mooring stations, but instead we got to stay up on the bridge and watch as we sailed out.We sailed overnight to Swansea, where the depot is, and the Chief Officer decided to give us shore leave for the day as the crew were busy with loading and discharging buoys, which wasn’t something we could get involved with yet. (I think they wanted to spend a bit of time with us to assess how responsible and safe we were before letting us out while operations were going on). Not complaining, we happily bimbled off into town and did some entirely unnecessary shopping! That evening we steamed to an anchorage off Tenby and stayed there for the night, ready to start buoy work in the morning.

While most of the crew got on with buoy work, S and I were detailed to help with preparations for the VC. VC stands for Visiting Committee; once a year the Elder Brethren of Trinity House go around the lighthouses to inspect them, and the easiest way to get to many of them is via the ships. My first job was helping put the stanchions for the awning on the helideck up to clean and check them. We then got told that the awning wasn’t going to be used, so, we took them down again! After that it was brasso detail, which turned out to be a regular feature of my life for the next week or so. It’s a fairly boring job, but I actually quite like the satisfaction I get from making something that’s blackened and filthy looking become shiny and clean. The frustrating thing is when the rain comes down and undoes all you hard work… Needless to say, it started to rain after afternoon smoko, so I helped rig the screen that goes around the boat deck at the stern and we knocked off after that.

The next morning we were on brasso detail again, which lasted about ¾ of an hour until the rain started up again so we had an early smoko and then S and I scrubbed the scuppers and deck on the heli-deck with sugie (soap) and brushes.We carried on in the afternoon with the fresh water hose, which is pretty weak and so progress was slow so at afternoon smoko we asked if we could use the fire hose, which comes off the fire main and has some serious kick, we got the job squared off easily with that!

The sun came out the next day so it was a good day for painting; we started on the gangway giving it a fresh coast of grey metallic paint. Once that was done S and I started on the rails around the heli-deck with undercoat where the crew had already taken the paintwork back to bare metal with grinders the day before.

We finished off the undercoat first thing the next morning and we were joined by the boys to crack on with the topcoat. The afternoon was spent finishing off any missed bits (holidays) which S was  and cutting in, after smoko I went to find some rope to make new steadying lines for the gangway with. I pulled the wrong end out and it all ended up in a terrible mess so I spent the rest of the afternoon sorting it out and recoiling it neatly as well as cutting the lengths I needed. We were told to knock off at 1630 but we stayed on the foredeck to watch the crew lifting and servicing buoys for an hour.

Next day I got the rope (from the right end this time) and all the bits and pieces to do whippings and spent the morning splicing the new ropes on to the gangway and whipping the ends. It was nice to be doing something that I knew would remain there for a decent length of time and was also suitably salty and seamanlike. I showed S how to do a splice and have promised to teach her how to do it properly and some knots too, all that time spent doing knots and ropework on Pelican has certainly paid off! The afternoon wasn’t nearly so much fun though as it was back to brasso duties, polishing the Elder Brethrens Clock, bell and binnacle.

By this time we had slowly worked our way up the Welsh coast, servicing buoys by day and anchoring overnight, and were just off Liverpool by the Bar light float. The racon beacon on the top of the float needed checking so one of the second mates got sent up it, much to everyone’s amusement as he’s not the slimmest chap in the world. He did it though, and the next morning we went into Liverpool and berthed on the cruise ship terminal. I went forward for mooring operations and raised the bow jack when the1st line went ashore. Trinity House have quite a lot of protocol and etiquette when it comes to flags because they’re such an old institution, it seems as if everyone important has their own flag and there’s a few more chucked in for good measure! After that it was back to brasso and then deck scrubbing in the afternoon. The ship has a large industrial scrubber, rather like a floor polisher, and the crew made it look really easy to use, but when I had a go with it I found it has a tendancy to run away with you all too easily!

So, that was my first week, I’ll try and write some more about it soon, but it’s now time for some celebratory tea and cake as I’ve just had news about my stability result. Our tutor can’t give us our actual results yet as they have to be verified, but we arranged a Green, Amber, Red code for him to email us with to give us a heads up on whether we needed to start revising again. He’s just emailed me saying “Your test was a brilliant shade of GREEN! Clearly you put in the effort – Well done!” So I’m on top of the world!!

So, what does being a cadet involve?

Ok, I’m still massively behind on this blog, but, I’m not as behind on here as I am on flickr! I am trying to catch up, and to be honest, there’s not much more to tell you about, so I’m debating with myself as to whether to bother. In a nutshell, I spent the rest of my time on the QM2 on the bridge for arrivals and departures, doing the same stuff as I’ve already talked about, but getting better at it. We did the UK cruise, during which I started to learn how to calculate compass errors using the stars. We then went back to New York tracking south to avoid some more bad weather. In New York I got a massage which f*@ked my back up for about a week (tip- when you’ve had a massage and are on your back, roll sideways to sit up, don’t sit straight up!!). After that we did a short 3 day cruise to Boston, Bar Harbour and Halifax before returning to New York where I finally got off and flew home. If there’s interest, I will expand on that, but you’ll have to ask!

I got off the QM2 in November [Edit: All the pictures from this trip are now up on Flickr!] I was due to return to college in January, but college, in their infinite wisdom, decided to put our return date back til mid feb. So, with all that time to go I asked my company if I could go back to the THV Patricia, and they obliged. The Pat is the polar opposite to the QM, she’s 84m compared to 334m, she does take passengers, but only 12 of them, and she’s a buoy tender, going around parts of the UK coast looking after the lights and marks that we all use to navigate by. Quite a difference, but equally interesting and involving!

For now though, something different: Someone I sailed with on the Pelican is thinking about joining the MN, and he asked me what it involved, I wrote back to him with this. It struck me that a lot of people don’t know what being a cadet involves, so I thought I’d share…

I’m in the last couple of months of the academic stuff at college, which is pretty hectic- I have 4 assignments and three exams coming up in the next 2 months (which I should be cracking on with but it’s friday evening and my motivation is low!). I’m doing the foundation degree course, the other option is the HNC course, the FD covers all the theory for OOW, Chief Mates and masters while the HNC just covers the OOW, this means the FD course is more intensive, but the pay off is that when I have enough sea time to go for my mates ticket I won’t have to do a long college stint, I’ll just come back to do the orals prep, which is 4 weeks. On the other hand I’ll have to remember everything I’ve learned in college now in a few years time!

It is a big commitment, as you spend several months at college at a time and then several months at sea at a time, the courses don’t run like uni terms, and the holidays are less than at uni (2 weeks for xmas, 3 for easter and 4 for summer), plus if you’re on a sea phase you don’t get the college holiday. You do get some leave during your sea phases though, between trips and if you have something big like a family wedding and you give your sponsor enough notice (ie a year in advance) they will try to arrange your sea trips so you can be home for it. But it’s only three years like that, once you’re qualified the leave periods between trips are much longer, it depends entirely on the company you end up working for mind, so you could end up doing three weeks on three weeks off, or three months on two months off, or 6 months on 6 months off…

Cadet wages vary according to sponsor companies quite a lot, from about £550/month to £1000/month, some cadets get their accommodation paid for on top of their wage, most of us have to pay for it out of what we get paid. I get an extra bit of money for uniform, some cadets get their uniform provided by their sponsor, which includes being sent a bunch of stuff you’re never going to wear, I’ll never forget my girly coursemate’s tiny white see-through shorts!!

The course covers everything, in the first phase I covered maths skills, introductory ship construction and cargo work, general ship knowledge, buoyage and rules of the road, meteorology and chartwork, tides and sailings. In my sea phase I did Work Based Learning, in which you relate what you did on college to what goes on on ship, to demonstrate you have learnt and understood stuff. You also have a training record book, in which the ship’s officers sign off tasks you have done on ship. To back that up you keep a navigation and operations workbook, which is essentially writing about stuff you’re done.

This phase we’re doing celestial navigation and passage planning, navigation aids, ship stability, engineering, advanced cargo and construction, management, law and professional development (PD involves a 4000 word “dissertation”, which we can write about anything we like). In my next sea phase I’ll be doing more Work Based Learning, as well as getting the remaining tasks signed off in my training record book.

The HNC course cuts out a few of those subjects, such as the PD, engineering and law, and others are only taught to the OOW level, (stability, and possibly cargo and construction too). The other difference is that you don’t do the Work Based Learning when at sea, but you have other reports to write instead.

I’ve really enjoyed it all so far, well, there have been shit days and the maths in cel nav and stability makes my brain bleed, but I still have my eye firmly on that OOW ticket at the end of it and have no regrets at all.